Family opens up about suicide, mental health after 15-year-old takes her own life
MASSAC COUNTY, IL — A 15-year-old girl took her own life. A day after her funeral, her dad is talking about mental health and suicide prevention.
“She fought a battle with a very silent, evil disease that I don’t know very much about except that it’s evil and it took my child way too soon,” said Tom Johnson, father of Alydia.
Alydia killed herself on April 10, 2019. Family and friends said goodbye at her funeral on April 16.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults in Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri. In Illinois, it’s third.
Alydia’s family wants to share their story in hopes of stopping this from happening to your family.
“Alydia was definitely into art. She had a beautiful voice, loved her guitar,” said her grandmother, Wanda Johnson.
She kept all her granddaughter’s artwork. “She found this not too long ago and said ‘Grandma, you still have this?’ I said ‘Yes, I still have this.’ I wouldn’t have thrown it away for anything, because it’s a part of her,” Wanda said. “Now I’m glad I did. I have all kinds of memories.”
“She’s always been a very happy girl,” said Tom. “About a year ago, she started having some problems with depression.” He says Alydia was getting help with a counselor and medication, but then that stopped.
She lived with her mom in St. Louis. A week ago, he went to visit and take her out to dinner. He dropped Alydia off with her mom and headed back to Illinois where he lives.
“I had just gotten into town when I got a call from her step-dad saying I need to turn around and come back. So I do a U-turn and give her a call. He tells me that she has hung herself,” Tom said. “I ask him ‘Is she alive?’ He says ‘No, I don’t think so.'”
Doctors found a pulse, but she was braindead.
The family had to make a decision. They chose to donate her organs.
Her mom, Emmy Hamlin, shared a video on Facebook of the organ donor thank you walk — one of their last moments with Alydia.
“We were praying for a miracle. We didn’t get the miracle that we asked for, but the miracle that we received was that she was able to save four people’s lives,” Tom said.
He’s leaning on his family to get him through this. “I go between being very sad and numb. When I’m numb, I feel guilty about not being very sad,” he said.
He said he didn’t see any warning signs, so he is letting his daughter’s life and death be the warning for others.
Alydia’s liver went to a 61-year-old man. Both of her kidneys went to two 58-year-old men. Her heart went to another 15-year-old girl.
There will be a memorial service for Alydia starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 20, at Zion United Church of Christ in Metropolis, Illinois.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Certified prevention specialist Samantha Powell said the best thing you can do is talk about it. “We’re not afraid to talk about our physical health. You know, we have a stomach ache or a headache, and we talk about it. That’s just our culture. We just don’t talk about it. We are just losing too many people to suicide, so we need to start talking about it,” Powell said.
There is a suicide prevention class for parents on Thursday at the Marshall County School Board office. You can register online beforehand here.
For more on this story and others, like and follow Leah Shields on Facebook.